Since 2000, the population of the Wake Forest, North Carolina has grown 203%. That's why strategic, innovative economic development has become a chief priority for the Town of Wake Forest in managing the community’s growth.
Prior to 2016, the economic development arm of the Town was run by the Wake Forest Chamber of Commerce. Seeing the need for cohesion with the strategic growth plan for the community, Town Manager Kip Padgett and the Wake Forest Board of Commissioners transitioned the economic development role from the Chamber into a municipal program. In April of 2016, Jason Cannon was hired as the Director of the Economic Development Department and shortly thereafter the Town Board of Commissioners approved the creation of the Wake Forest Business & Industry Partnership (WFBIP). Intended to serve as a non-profit liaison between municipal government and the business community, the WFBIP functions entirely as the economic development entity for the Town of Wake Forest, is housed in Town hall, and is funded by the Town.
“The WFBIP is innovative. We want to show folks that economic development is a priority for Wake Forest,” said Cannon. “Before the WFBIP, there was never vision as grand as the center for technology now under discussion; never a dedicated pursuit of an entrepreneurial hub to foster the Town’s entrepreneurial community; never a strategic level of marketing that has now been done and is still growing.”
The nature of the Wake Forest Business & Industry Partnership allows the organization to maintain a unique relationship with the Town that leverages the organization as middle man between business and government. “Through the WFBIP, we’ve been able to better accommodate the needs of business. It indicates we’re nimble and open to opportunities municipal entities may not typically be interested in,” said Cannon.
The organization’s work is focused on five key areas of development: Business Retention & Expansion; Marketing; Entrepreneurship; Product Development; and stewardship of the Town’s Future’s Fund. Two main development priorities are currently in process for the WFBIP: development of a significant Live-WORK-Play mixed-use technology park and the creation of an entrepreneurial incubator in the heart of downtown Wake Forest.